There’s nothing as inspiring to us as seeing students getting their hustle on. Talk about getting into things early. Fatima Zahra Nassik is a bomb-ass social entrepreneur from Morocco. While pursuing her studies, Fatima co-founded Enactus ENA, a platform for student and business leaders, with her friend.
Fatima didn’t stop at Enactus ENA though, she also started Laymouna with Fatima-Azzahra Benfares. Laymouna is an initiative that brings fruits and healthy snacks to busy students and working people. She’s also involved in starting other ventures and still interns at the same time! Read on to find out how Fatima brings her academic savvy into her entrepreneurial life.
Tell us about your organization, Enactus ENA. Why enter into social ventures?
Through Enactus ENA, the idea was to show that architecture students can also have an entrepreneurial mindset. In our first year, this was basically our goal. We started organizing conferences and events like, ‘Find the leader in you’. At this event, we had interesting leaders and speakers give inspiring speeches.
We also had the first edition of the Enactus Regional Summit. It gathered 8 teams from the region to share experience, knowledge and especially communicate on their projects.
Through workshops where business tools and team building activities were taught, we had several on-field types of research where we spotted different needs. After many interactions on ideas that responded to those needs, Laymouna, TownOut and C-Home were founded.
Tell us about your social ventures. How do you ensure that they achieve success?
Laymouna is an enterprise that aims to make fruits and healthy snacks readily available to students and working people. The idea of Laymouna really came from a need that we, as students, faced in university. We decided to do something about it.
We do this through innovative vending machines and stands that provide fresh and accessible choices for people who want to eat healthily. On a more ambitious level, we want to improve the food culture in Morocco.
Then through TownOut, we organize trips to remote areas in Morocco. We promote them as new tourist destinations and therefore empower them economically.
Finally, C-Home is an alternative construction method where we use lightweight cardboard for homeless people. The idea is to build at a lower cost and quickly too.
To ensure our ventures achieve success, we give presentations of our project’s progression to an advisory board formed by many professionals and business leaders. We organize this approximately every two to three months.
We also ensure our projects participate in as many competitions as possible to maximize feedbacks and improvement. Most importantly, we have Enactus Morocco as a constant counsel.
What difficulty have you faced in founding and co-founding? What advice will you give other women looking to start a project together?
Concerning founding and co-founding the venture, we discuss and respect each other’s opinion at every single step. Of course, final decisions are made by the CEO if a mutual agreement takes too long.
I would advise women planning on starting a project together to view their ventures as rollercoasters. Ups and downs would be a recurrent feature. Aspiring entrepreneurs must see them as necessary challenges to reaching goals.
Instead of being discouraged, see them as opportunities to show that things can be different and especially like you imagined. At the end of the day, you are here to create impact and value to the world.
How has your organization grown since you started on it? What steps have you taken to get it to where you want it to be?
The organization is growing pretty fast. Actually, we come top to mind when it comes to entrepreneurship in our university. We are looking forward to gaining more impact in the next year and to give birth to other projects.
Professors and trainers have shown interest in coaching us. We’ve been contacted by many foreign partners interested in not only our events, but also our projects.
For this year, we aspire also to have more projects in the field of architecture or urbanism, a domain that we master.
Tell me about your experience at the Henry Ford Academy. What steps did you take to ensure that your project won the best pitch prize?
My experience in the Henry Ford Academy (in partnership with IIHEM) was rewarding. Several entrepreneurs and business leaders came and we heard their inspiring stories. We had many courses from shaping the idea of a project to how to pitch it. And finally, how to finance a business venture.
For three different prizes, a presentation of our project was to be made in just one minute. Since the training was in French and English, my colleague and I decided to pitch Laymouna in both languages in exactly one minute. I think the originality of the pitch is what made us win this prize as we caught the attention of the audience.
Furthermore, Laymouna was the startup selected for the HFEA ICP program for a two-week consulting with IIHEM alongside VCU students who came from the US.
As a freelancer and businesswoman, how do you manage all these projects? What do you do to unwind and relax?
I think the answer to this question is actually passion. I am a super active person. I really believe that my actions can give a positive impact in this world. Freelancing is most of all, a way to help me gain experience in the professional field beside my studies.
My passion has helped me find a way to manage these projects. It’s my strength especially in my lowest moments (rollercoaster, remember…).
Personally, I believe travelling for a few days or spending time with family is the best way to unwind and relax. It helps me achieve a broader vision of where I’m going and how. Lately, I’ve started working on starting some dancing classes. I want a physical activity that includes fun.
Are you still a student?
Yes! I’m in my fifth year. Of course, this means I’m basically focused on internships. But I still find the time to create all of these.
I like that I can add my academic knowledge to my career.
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